If you were at all curious as to why Secret Woods chose this collaboration, I would like to share my personal experiences Depression, Anxiety and ADHD in and around my life.
Growing up in Siberia, I was surrounded by a harsh environment that makes everyone more tough and straightforward. Men never expressed their feelings, and from a young age, you are meant to absorb that rule. No matter what, you can't cry, or else you’re not a man. Even crying in front of your parents is considered an act of shame. I, like most would imagine, found this to be extremely challenging, though it also made me seek out optimism wherever I could find it to capture a glimpse of what the future could bring.
I moved to Canada when I was 22 with all of that baggage in tow, and I relied on it to work hard and adapt to this new country. I worked 12 hour days roofing in the punishing Albertan summers in temperatures that reached 35 degrees, and Saskatchewan during the winter at 35 below.
Somewhere in Alberta
It’s here that I first met my wife, and became acquainted with her depression. At the beginning of our marriage, her depression had quickly defeated us both, and it took me a long time to truly comprehend what she was experiencing and differentiate it from garden variety sadness. I felt that I wasn’t good enough for her and that I couldn't make her happy. This was selfish of me, but I didn’t know that at the time.
Of course, we had happy times, but she also had periods where she would cry almost every day for weeks. It was heartbreaking. My strategy was to attempt to cheer her up, to try and get her to look at life in a more positive frame of mind. I get how ridiculous that sounds now knowing the empty void depression leaves you in.
As I got more familiar with my wife’s struggles, I began to notice related symptoms that I identified with myself. Soon after, I received a diagnosis for Anxiety and ADHD. I masked these issues by smoking cigarettes and drinking alcohol on a regular basis. The alcohol gave me the false feeling that I could deprive my worries of examination and forget about them by numbing them. Cigarettes were similarly keeping my brain from going into overdrive. All the while, I understood these were not solutions, but detrimental habits in the long- term that seemed nearly impossible to escape.
Smoke break after polishing
As my wife became more knowledgeable of her condition through books and therapy, she sought out methods to replace her own coping mechanisms with healthy routine. She refrained from any alcohol consumption, which was a huge challenge had immediate results for her. Better sleep, her severe mood changes vanished, and her memory and brain function was vastly improved.
During the pandemic, we learned how vital physical activity is to overall mental health. We start playing badminton and taking short walks everyday. This was a drastic, positive change for both of us. When the world opened up, we kept up with these activities while adding indoor cycling to the mix. While I gave up smoking, my drinking habit got worse. I was drinking hard liquor and beer everyday for 6 months straight! When I got a blood clot in my leg, my emergency room doctor asked me if I need a help with my alcohol addiction and it changed something finally started to shift in me. I began looking for a solution to substitute my cravings and stumbled upon on Huberman podcast about deliberate cold exposure - COLD PLUNGING (link to this podcast: https://spotify.link/cMz596ebgDb).
My swollen leg in emergency
It reminded me of something from my teenage years, when my grandfather was always trying to hook me on yoga and cold showers. I had always been skeptical of the effects from mindful exercise or refreshing feeling after cold exposure. In Siberia, every family has their own sauna (we call it Banya), after sauna you jump into fresh snow or splash yourself with iced cold water. It seemed more of a traditional practice than anything of true value. Still, I challenged myself to take 5 cold showers in 1 month (start with a little). After this first month I was taking not a cold shower, but a COLD BATH (7 Celsius / 44.6 Fahrenheit) for 3 min every morning first thing before everything. Ritual or not, this was a game-changer. I couldn’t believe how this affects my body and my mental health stability. It gave me a supercharge in a way that the addictive medications I was on (Conserta and Adderall, primarily) just couldn’t compare to. This practice had added benefits, such as reduced swelling and inflammation from exercises, improved sleep and more!
My cold bath made out of chest freezer
However, these solutions just aren’t the cure-all to end mental health concerns for everyone. We have found our own way to rein in our afflictions, and keeping consistent with them has kept my wife and I in higher spirits than we even could have anticipated, but everyone can find their own solutions, in their own time. We may live with these conditions, but we refuse to let them condition our lives. Whether you have Depression, Anxiety, ADHD, or something else, there is a personal solution just waiting out there for you to explore it. It may be a game of badminton, a nice cold plunge, a prescription, an outlet, or a lifestyle change. Hey, life is good after all!